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South China Facing Up to Yangtze Competition
Cities along the Pearl River in southern China are to be integrated more fully as economic pressure from prosperous centres along the Yangtze River bites.

According to officials and experts, South China's Guangdong Province must consolidate its status as one of China's economic engines.

A special advisory group organized by the Ministry of Construction and Guangdong provincial government has been invited to guide the planning of cities in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) such as Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai.

"It is an eminent trend for cities to integrate and merge for further prosperity in the PRD," said Chen Guanghan, director of the PRD Area Research Institute with Guangzhou-based Zhongshan University.

"People should no longer be restricted to a designated administrative district."

Chen said it was important for regional economies to integrate and reduce their operation costs in times of economic globalization, which required proper divisions of labour among cities.

Urban areas of China usually have a disproportionate number of governmental institutions compared with their size.

Analysts say the excessive number of institutions not only consumes a lot of social resources, but overburdens taxpayers in the delta.

Guangdong has developed into China's economic powerhouse since the central government chose the province to pilot its reform and opening-up drive more than 20 years ago.

But the delta's uniqueness in this pioneering role has been weakened by the emergence of other regions such as Shanghai.

Guangdong has consequently decided to focus its new round of urban expansion on city integration in the delta area, which lacks co-ordination in urban planning currently.

Gross domestic product (GDP) in the PRD was 836.4 billion yuan (US$101 billion) last year, accounting for 8 per cent of the national total. Population in the delta reached 50 million, representing 54 per cent of Guangdong's total.

"Only a greater Pearl River Delta metropolis rim that includes Hong Kong and Macao will make the region the world's most dynamic and fastest growing area," said Professor Chen Guanghan.

Chen noted a systematic and regular mechanism for communication and exchanges between Hong Kong and delta cities would create mutually beneficial opportunities for both sides.

Officials have also expressed their desire for a much more integrated Pearl River Delta.

"The PRD should be the champion of a team race," said Li Guikang, Party leader of Dongguan.

"I hope the integration of infrastructure and resources of cities will raise the PRD's competitiveness and its status in the international arena."

Lin Shusen, Party secretary of Guangzhou, agreed: "The expansion of city size has enabled us to ensure a much larger space for our city in terms of planning and build a modern regional centre."

With the central area extending to two former counties under its jurisdiction, Guangzhou has surpassed Shanghai in size with an area of 7,400 square kilometres and its population has reached 10 million.

(Xinhua News Agency April 14, 2003)

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